Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Monday, December 12, 2016

16

Perhaps some of you noticed. My profile underwent its yearly edit. Instead of 15, it now says 16 years. I recently passed the 16 year mark on my journey with depression. After having depression as a teenager, I was mental-illness-free until I was in my early 30's. It was November, 2000, to be exact, when I first noticed the familiar, unwanted symptoms creeping back into my life. Depression descended upon me.

Sixteen years. If you'd asked me early in this journey, perhaps anytime in the first 5 or 6 years, I'd have told you this was the worst thing that ever happened to me. In the early years, my depression was severe and uncontrolled. I lost everything, including my spouse, my job, my house, and even my friends. I was drinking too much and bopping in and out of the hospital on a regular basis. I was unstable and miserable. Life wasn't fair, or so I thought, and I wanted to die.

Something changed in the midst of this journey. It didn't happen overnight, but something changed. I changed. I stopped drinking. More importantly, I got sober. There is a difference. I began to collaborate with my doctors and providers, rather than expecting them to "fix it." Perhaps that's how we found some medications which worked. Or perhaps removing alcohol from my system just allowed them to work. I regained a sense of control. I stopped being a victim and began taking responsibility for my mental health.

The last several years have been more good than bad. The hospital hasn't disappeared from my journey, but it's now a rarity rather than a regularity. Of course I wish I didn't have this illness. I don't wish depression on anyone. But I now feel like I live with depression rather than suffer from it. I can't totally control it, but I can certainly make choices which limit its impact on my life. If I do what I can do, continue to take the next right action, and seek help when I need help; living life, rather than dealing with depression, is where I get to focus my energy.

I no longer feel like depression is the worst thing that ever happened to me. As a result of living with depression, I've learned a lot, taken advantage of many opportunities, and grown a ton over the past 16 years. This illness has forced humility and gratitude and kindness upon me. I am truly a kinder, more gentle human being because of my experience living with depression. But I'm also a tougher, more resilient human being, too. Skills learned through the difficulty of depression actually simplify and enrich my life today. I never would have guessed that 16 years ago.

3 comments:

Awa said...

I can relate. What depression has caused me loose, not only with regards to missed opportunities, but with regards to actual loss of friends and relationships, even a job, is's maybe the hardest part. I am curious, when you say you went from just expecting the doctors to fix you to collaborate with them, how did that go in practice? I think I am collaborating with my doctors, being honest and open, however my faith in therapy after being in and out for 12 years is almost non-existent. I'd be interested to hear how you collaborate with them.

All the best,
Awa

Wendy Love said...

I always enjoy your 'perspective' on your illness. It gives me hope. It makes me think 'if she can find something good about this thing, so can I!' Thanks for sharing that.

etta said...

@ Awa: Collaboration, for me, included taking meds as prescribed, following through on their suggestions, and being honest about my symptoms. I think before I made this attitude switch I focused only on the negative. Everything was all bad. There were no shades of gray. Doctors can't do much with "all bad." They need to know what works and what doesn't. I began to see and admit to areas of improvement, even small ones. Even if I still felt like crap overall, I could find tiny bits of improvement, and that information made my doctor's job easier. It helped guide her treatment. She and I could build on what worked and discontinue what didn't. She was also more trusting of what I said because I was no longer generalizing everything as bad. That's just one example. Hope that helps.



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